“Don’t talk to strangers.”
You’ve certainly heard those words before.
But ‘stranger danger’ can often be misleading, as in many cases, children are taught to think of strangers as frightening and creepy people. But in reality, statistics show that children are at more risk of molestation, abduction and abuse by someone they know. Furthermore, this overgeneralization of strangers has caused some children to falsely believe that kind looking and nicely dressed men and women never qualify as dangerous.
As a parent, it’s your responsibility to explain the concept of stranger danger to your children in a rational and effective way. To help you prepare, take a few minutes to read over the following tips:
Correctly define ‘stranger’
Let’s back up and remind ourselves that strangers are often misrepresented to children as scary looking. While children shouldn’t fear everyone they see, you should make it clear that anybody that they do not know qualifies as a stranger – regardless of gender, age and appearance.
Teach your child to trust their instincts
Many children are taught to be obedient and trusting of all adults, regardless of the situation. Unfortunately, this can make them particularly vulnerable in situations when they are approached by people they don’t know. Consequently, you should make sure your child understands that they will not get in trouble for disobeying an adult if they feel they are in danger. Furthermore, always teach your kids to trust their instincts and use common sense in uncomfortable situations.
Encourage use of the buddy system
Teach your kids about safety in numbers and the buddy system. Encourage your son or daughter to play and travel in groups. Being alone makes them a much more attractive target for criminals. Additionally, instruct them to stay in places that are well lit and out in the open.
Come up with a secret code word
It’s a good idea to come up with a secret family code word that only you, your child and trusted friends and family members know. Tell your son or daughter that if anyone tries to pick them up or take them somewhere, that person must tell them the code word first. If they are unable to do so, they should avoid going anywhere with that individual.
Invest in an alarm system
While children should know to never reveal their name or address to someone they don’t know, homes – especially ones with children – should be equipped with alarm systems as a last line of defense. Today’s security systems are not only extremely effective, but also affordable for most homeowners. Many residential security companies will even help you customize your own home protection package to suit your budget and lifestyle.